Jul 15, 2009 (CIDRAP News) A national consortium of groups that have a stake in managing foodborne illness outbreaks today released guidelines for outbreak response, a document that includes model practices for each investigation stage, giving local and state officials a baseline for assessing their current procedures. However, he said public officials’ willingness to implement the model practices will be the factor that improves the nation’s overall outbreak response. “As noted in the forward, it will only be as effective as our commitment to turn the guidelines into action,” he said. He said the CIFOR guidelines also give local and state officials a solid framework for achieving federal standards that address outbreak response. In a nutshell, the guidance promotes faster and better response methods that revolve around better communication and more uniform reporting between local and state officials, he said. For example, surveillance systems and incident logs should be compiled in a manner that’s easily accessible to other agencies. “This truly would identify patterns that aren’t being identified now,” Holmes said. Scott E. Holmes, manager of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department’s environmental public health division in Lincoln, Neb., told CIDRAP News that it took 2 years to develop the guidelines, which underwent rounds of extensive review and modification. Holmes is NACCHO’s representative on CIFOR. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) today praised the new CIFOR guidelines. Tom Vilsack, USDA secretary, said in an HHS statement that was e-mailed to journalists that improving food safety is one of President Obama’s top priorities. In the overview section, the authors state that the guidelines are meant to be flexible and include a range of approaches with the rationale for each of them. For example, the guidance details the role of the Incident Command System (ICS), but acknowledges that not all agencies use this system. See also: Applying the guidelines isn’t going to be a major cost for local and state departments, he predicted. “It’s more a matter of doing the actions correctly,” he said, adding that adopting a model practice for some can be as simple as reorganizing how the response work gets done. Jul 7 CIDRAP News story “Officials release food safety plan, egg safety rules” Jul 15 CIFOR press release “The guidelines show that by working together, we can all dramatically improve our food safety system and further protect the public health,” she said. “We hope to further this collaborative effort through the Food Safety Working Group.” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius thanked CIFOR for its vital contribution toward food safety. Sebelius and Vilsack cochair Obama’s food safety group. In March Obama created a Food Safety Working Group, and on Jul 7 it announced its key steps for improving food safety, which included tougher standards to reduce Salmonella contamination, tighter enforcement at beef facilities, building a new trace-back and response system, and improving federal food safety oversight. CIFOR guidelines for foodborne outbreak response The guidelines start with a chapter on the fundamental concepts of surveillance and foodborne disease, followed by sections on planning, outbreak detection, investigation, and control measures. It also includes sections on specific topics such as multijurisdictional outbreaks, legal considerations, and performance indicators for foodborne disease programs. The group that authored the 200-page guidance report, the Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR), is a multidisciplinary partnership of seven professional organizations and three federal agencies that seek to increase collaboration among a range of food safety officials. Its cochairs are the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). “The main thing is that this provides state and local departments with the best practices,” Holmes said, adding that there are currently no standardized methods for conducting a foodborne outbreak investigation. For example, some local and state departments use a shotgun approach with their food exposure surveys, while others typically use more targeted survey methods. Some states subtype isolates from patient specimens and submit them to national databases as soon as they receive them, rather than batching them. “Last week the Obama Administration took an important step forward by introducing tougher standards to reduce Salmonella contamination and E coli outbreaks, and the guidelines announced today will help government further that goal,” he said. Craig Hedberg, PhD, a foodborne disease expert at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who wrote three of the guideline chapters and was a member of the CIFOR guidance work group, said the new document will serve as a yardstick for measuring future outbreak response activities.
14 November 2014The Planet Earth Institute (PEI) has called for innovators to pitch ideas for data-driven projects that harness data to achieve real, practical, human impact in Africa, for entry in the first Africa Data Challenge. The challenge is part of the institute’s #ScienceAfrica UnConference, to be held at Impact HUB in Westminster, London on November 18. PEI is an international NGO that works for the scientific independence of Africa. The Africa Data Challenge is a groundbreaking competition. While the “data revolution” is a major theme in conversations on technology and business, there’s little discussion on how it can enhance Africa’s scientific development in a practical way. The Africa Data Challenge invites innovators from around the world to pitch their ideas for projects that can help translate and transmit the power of data to those on the continent. Projects are unlimited in scope and focus, but must be designed to have a practical, human application in the next 12 months. Contestants will present their project live in front of a panel that includes Beejaye Kokil, head of the economic and social statistics division at African Development Bank; David Tempest, head of director of access relations at Elsevier; Richard Pilling, director of professional services and analytics at Intel; and Marieme Jamme, entrepreneur and chief executive of SpotOne Global. The successful innovators will receive a cash prize of £7 000 (R124 000) and PEI’s support in rolling out their project. PEI’s second #ScienceAfrica UnConference is hosted by Lord Boateng and runs in partnership with the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the World Bank and the European Commission. It brings together over 120 people who are passionate about and working in science, development and Africa for an interactive day of workshops and discussions. Participants come from diverse sectors, including international policy makers, academics, students as well as the general public. The UnConference will also be live streamed on the PEI website and people are encouraged to use the #ScienceAfrica hashtag on Twitter to engage in a robust discussion about science, technology and innovation in Africa. Dr Álvaro Sobrinho, chairman of PEI, said: “Data holds a huge amount of promise for scientific development in Africa, and for many different business sectors too, but we haven’t yet fully explored how it can be used at a local level to improve lives. As an NGO we are always looking for practical ways to support science and technology, and this Africa Data Challenge will help do just that – developing and incubating new ideas with real impact. “I’m looking forward to supporting the winning project over the next year, and to rolling out the competition across Africa. Working with our partners around the world, we are deeply committed to supporting innovations in this way, and strengthening the growing movement for scientific investment and development in Africa.” PEI is an international NGO and charity working for the scientific independence of Africa. While other emerging regions have invested heavily in science and technology, Africa is falling behind in the race for scientific development. All of the group’s work is built around three pathways it believes will help to lead Africa to scientific independence: higher education, technological innovation, and policy and advocacy. “In other words, we want to support and strengthen higher education institutions, help incubate and seed-fund technologies able to drive scientific advancement and campaign for a science-led development agenda for Africa,” the organisation says. The institute is headquartered in London and has regional project offices in Luanda, Angola and Kigali, Rwanda. Source: APO